Will Uncontrolled NSA Spying on Phones End?

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Alvin Bryan

Alvin Bryan is a freelance writer and online privacy enthusiast enthusiast currently contributing quality tips and troubleshooting on personal VPN services, and online privacy and security news. You can also find him on Google +.

NSA Spying ControlUS President Obama announced in January that he planned to stop NSA spying on phone data. Last week he released a statement about his new plan to allow phone companies to keep customer phone records. If Congress approves, the NSA will no longer keep US citizens’ phone data.

New Terms for NSA Spying

NSA spying and surveillance by other government agencies will take a different turn with the new plan. First, they will have to obtain specific court orders from FISC every time they want to look at any phone records. FISC orders will have to grant permission for the agency to request data on each individual phone number. There is a provision that Obama added in January for emergency situations. It allows agencies to query data if it serves a national security goal. A judge will still have to approve the phone numbers used.

Second, agencies cannot gather any of that data but simply view them. Phone data records will be kept with the telecoms where they originated. And they will only be kept for a predetermined duration. When data was collected through NSA spying, these records could be kept forever.

NSA Spying DataNSA spying previously allowed the agency to collect data on people who were three hops away from the primary target. So, third, the new plan will limit NSA spying to two hops of the search query. This provision was also added in January. FISC will also supervise certain “minimization procedures” that will control how agencies handle the data. This includes a time limit on data queries. But the telecoms involved would have to continually produce data during this period. Telecoms would have to hand over any data requested under FISC orders. They also have to assist the NSA or other agencies, making sure they can accomplish their queries and get the data fast and in appropriate formats.

Ending Section 215 of the Patriot Act

Section 215 of the Patriot Act describes the powers given to NSA spying over gathering massive amounts of phone metadata. This conflicted extensively with the rights of US citizens. The subsequent outrage forced the president to push intelligence agencies to look for better ways to accomplish their goals. The president’s new plan aims to adjust NSA spying in particular. But it will cover all agencies to preserve the privacy of US citizens.

Authorization for current powers of the NSA spying program under Section 215 is scheduled to be renewed on March 28th. But Congress will need more time to pass laws that will endorse the president’s new plan. Obama has asked the Justice Department to delay the reauthorization for 90 days to give Congress time to review and pass the required legislation.

ACLU on NSA SpyingAnthony D. Romero, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, reacted positively to Obama’s plan. But he said that it should mark the beginning of NSA spying reforms. There are several other spying programs that also violate privacy rights. Obama’s speech highlighted a desire to create a stable balance between national security needs and constitutional rights, which Romero reiterated.

Read More:


Simply ‘Stop Spying': Critics Slam NSA Reform Proposals
Snowden: Obama’s plan to reform NSA spying is a turning point
Obama’s ‘Snowden reform’ of NSA spying won’t help Edward Snowden

2 thoughts on “Will Uncontrolled NSA Spying on Phones End?

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